Sunday, January 27, 2008

A RUSH OF WINGS: Final Review

Here is Raven's last installment of her as-she-reads-it review of A RUSH OF WINGS.

When I first started reading A RUSH OF WINGS, I was prepared to go either way. I was intrigued by the premise, but given who the main characters were (a wounded male rocker and a female FBI agent), I figured a romance was going to be central, and many stories that center around romances don't work for me. Well, the romance wasn't really central, and it was handled very naturally. The book as a whole was more than just a good read. It blew me away.

I did have a few small quibbles, so let me get those out of the way now. One or two things were set up but never referred to again. For instance, near the beginning Dante is summoned to appear before another New Orleans vampire, but that vampire never resurfaces. And on the level of story and believability, at two different points two different characters (both important to the story) escape death when I was fairly sure they wouldn't have been left alive. In one case the character who survives wonders why she wasn't killed, but she never gets an answer. In the other case, a justification is provided for letting the character live, but I didn't completely buy it. Also, one of the villains has murky motives which are never entirely clarified.

But an amazing book can be forgiven a flaw or two. I rarely gush about books because I rarely find one I absolutely love and can't put down, but with this book I found one.

Not all the story threads tie up at the end, which isn't surprising considering this is the first in a planned four-book series. But the main storyline does get resolved, resulting in a satisfying conclusion while still leaving enough open ends to lead into the next book. I think the main - and most interesting - questions involve Dante's past (and what his future will be). Dante is really the star of the book, with the strong, no-nonsense Heather as a terrific supporting character. Dante is full of contradictions, he's capable of being a creator and a destroyer, and Adrian Phoenix delves into his mind unflinchingly. As I mentioned previously, Phoenix doesn't pull her punches. Bad stuff happens to her characters. Lots of it. Dante takes it the worst, which gives Phoenix a chance to really show the reader who this character is. He's extremely compelling.

I loved the voices Phoenix created for her characters. Nearly everyone's speech has a distinctive flavor, which helped me keep the multiple viewpoints straight. Dante's voice is down-to-earth, slangy, a little foul-mouthed, and sprinkled with Cajun words and phrases. Heather, the put-together FBI agent, is slightly more formal and sounds very authoritative and professional when she's in agent mode. The incredibly creepy villain known as E has the habit of assigning nicknames to the people he's dealing with. His voice was part of what made him so creepy. He sounds friendly, almost loving, and yet his idea of love is to carve up living people while reading them poetry. He's so realistic that I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to read his scenes again. Most of them are pretty tough emotionally.

In general I found the good guys more compelling than the bad guys, probably because there were so many shades of gray in the good guys, particularly Dante. The main villains tended to be, well, villains, and they stayed that way.

Although I've never been to New Orleans, the New Orleans setting felt very real to me. I loved how Phoenix managed to infuse the book with a sense of place without hitting the reader over the head with it. She referred to street names, mentioned the muggy air, gave many of the characters French-derived names and sprinkled Cajun through their dialogue. It resulted in a sense that this particular story and these particular characters belonged in this setting.

The vampire lore is intriguing, and Phoenix has woven in religion and mythology. Any good vampire story has to include its own twist on the traditional lore, and I liked the direction Phoenix took this. I'm curious to know more, and I'm sure I'll get more details in the next three books.

The story itself is a fairly standard mystery, but Phoenix doles out suspense expertly, so the reader is always kept guessing. That and the superb characterization make this book what it is. In short, A RUSH OF WINGS is a keeper. I'll be finding a home for it on my bookshelf (books I don't like get carted off to the library), but I'm sure I'll be taking it down often to reread my favorite parts. I can't wait for the sequels.

All Adrian Phoenix posts
Original Debut Announcement (with even more links)
Adrian Phoenix website
A RUSH OF WINGS at Amazon USA, UK and Canada


Kimberly Swan said...

Great review Raven. :)

Tia Nevitt said...

Yes, I agree. Thank you, Raven!

Raven said...

Thanks, Kimberly! And Tia, I should be the one thanking you for giving me the chance to guest-review such an enjoyable book!

Adrian said...

Tia and Raven,

Thanks to you both for a great interview and a fascinating review! I really found it interesting to see the book reviewed as you read it, Raven. It gave a look into how the book works section by section.

Thanks for lavishing so much attention on A Rush of Wings. I deeply appreciate it!